One of the Republican Party's most conservative senators, Ted Cruz, is the unlikely ally of Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillbrand. Cruz is joining together with the senator from New York to fight sexual harassment.
In an interview with the Washington Examiner, Cruz explained the legislation and why he thinks it's important. When Examiner reporter Emily Jashinsky asked whether Cruz whether he expects more sexual harassment scandals to come out of congress, he replied: "I hope not."
While he response might have come off as flippant, he quickly corrected himself—making it clear how seriously he takes the issue.
"But," he immediately added, "those who have been violating the law committed criminal conduct, need to be held accountable."
The Texas Republican has an unlikely partner working with him to ensure that accountability in the upper chamber. Cruz outlined the legislation, introduced by Gillibrand and Cruz, along with eighteen other senators, in a Wednesday meeting with the Washington Examiner's editorial board.
Referring to what he called the "appalling wave of powerful men abusing their positions" seen in recent months, Cruz explained that the "The Gillibrand-Cruz legislation targets the rules in the Senate to end taxpayer-funded settlements for sexual harassment."
Cruz said, "One of the most important pieces of that legislation is that if an individual member is guilty of harassment, that any settlement will be paid out of his or her own pocket. And the default presumption is that settlement will be public. Now, if the victim under the legislation has a right to request that it be confidential, that’s an issue we struggled with how to balance that," he added. "Because there’s certainly an interest in public awareness, but you don’t want to involuntary publicize the victim of harassment or assault."
Cruz also noted the bill would seek to end mandated mediator arbitration.
"I’m encouraged that legislation already has wide bipartisan support. I am hopeful we take up and pass Gillibrand-Cruz soon," he told the Washington Examiner. "And I hope it makes a real difference changing the culture. That every person in the workplace deserves to be treated with dignity and respect. And Washington, for a long time, has been a place that has encouraged terrible behavior. And that needs to change."
In the interview, Cruz also weighed in on why he thinks harassment is so widespread in Washington. Cruz referenced a joke he had heard, which called Washington D.C. "Hollywood for ugly people."
"You get men and women with positions of power, sometimes cloaked in relative anonymity, in a workplace where the [power differential] between them and their employees is significant."
He continued, "In the world of legislation, I’ve long said the dominant instinct in the Senate is risk-aversion. Because for too many senators, the most desperate and terrible fear is that they won’t be re-elected, because being in office has become their identity. When they look in the mirror, it defines who they are. And being a senator, you go to parties and all your jokes are funny. Suddenly, you’re handsome and witty and wise," he noted.
"That culture, unfortunately, encourages abuse of power," said Cruz. "And for a long time there were not significant efforts to hold people accountable for that. I hope that will change."